Michael Levine-Clark’s recent editorial in Collaborative Librarianship draws attention to the developing possibilities of e-material interlibrary loan. The current system, while a marvel of academic library collaboration, is a bit hands-on. The development of systems like OCLC’s ILLiad and Ariel allow libraries to share e-documents, but the future of this kind of lending is a bit murky. OCLC is currently developing a fee-based lending program through MyiLibrary, but it bypasses the potentially problematic library-to-library lending by loaning direct from the publisher.
Levine-Clark suggests that the next step for interlibrary loan is the development of patron-driven ILL. I think that the tide of publisher restrictions on e-materials sharing will continue to grow and put the kibosh on libraries acting like they own the digital items they’ve purchased in favor of more subscription and pay-per services like that of MyiLibrary. These services may also undercut the price of traditional ILL, but this is with the understanding that libraries are allowed to lend e-documents. As recent upsets like the Overdrive scandal have shown, our ideas of ownership surrounding digital items are apt to also be undercut and with them, our upper hand in negotiating interlibrary lending.